Saturday, January 30, 2010

Yodelin - 01.29.10

Dan asked if I wanted to go out because they were forcing him to take the day off on Friday. He was leaving for Colorado on Saturday and I suspect he was hoping to get in some January turns.

It hadn't snowed all week so expectations were low. We decided on Yodelin as the trees would protect it from a sun crust, and temps were below freezing all week hopefully maintaining the snow that fell on Monday. The night before we decided if the snow was bad we would return home after one run.

Driving up to Steven's Pass we got a good first hand view of the lack of low snow. Surprisingly the ice on the side of the highway didn't look all bad near the pass. A few miles after and we were parking. The car's outside temp gauge read 33°F. We geared up and headed off. The skin in is on an old road that switchbacks through the old ski area. There was a faint skin track from Sunday or Monday, so we followed it. Dan and I constantly poked our poles in the snow outside the disturbed area and we were liking what we found. Soft powdery snow on top. We wound up a little farther west than the area Dan usually goes to and we made a traverse to a saddle and then up a ridge into the trees to where we started our first run.

The run started out with tightly spaced large trees and a few smaller (just sticking out of the ground) ones interspersed. Dan sailed away and I was left making one or two turns before stopping and figuring out my next move. It was slow going early on and then the trees cleared out a bit and we got moving. The snow was very good and we opted to go again, so at the end of our ~800' run, we skinned back up to the ridge.

This time I recommended a path farther skier's right as it appeared more open. We passed our previous drop in and continued a few moments east to where there was a nice opening to start. We entered the woods just after the small clearing and had a fantastic run! Really good snow and good turns through big trees. Once at the bottom we discussed what to do next. We both decided to give it another go although we were both tiring of the skin back up.

On the way back up Dan noted that the weather was great too, except for lack of sun. I told him the sun would cause a crust, and we couldn't have better conditions. I lagged behind Dan on the way up really feeling the soreness of climbing and yard work the previous day. I got to our transition and quickly changed over. We rode down again, but this run was not as good for me. The tiredness affected my ski ability and it seemed that the snow quality was deteriorating. (It felt like after a cold morning, the temps were indeed rising.) It had started to snow lightly when we started our second run.

After a few crashes on the way down including a heinous face plant that Dan got to witness, we transitioned to skinning and traversed west to get out. We initially considered heading up slightly to get a better run out, but we were both tired and tried to make a traverse work. After a entering the woods, we decided we could probably go for it and transitioned back into downhill mode. This was after I dug myself out of a hole I fell in trying to ski between two small trees with my skins on. The snow was getting wetter and stickier as we were lower and we rode out to a clearing where there was an old lift house. Dan opted to take his board off and hike up a small knoll while I trudged through the meadow to the other side. Once there, we hit our trail up and had enough angle to successfully use gravity.

The way out was tricky as the "road" was narrow and the snow very uneven. I tried multiple techniques of snowplowing, multiple hard turns, or skiing into the slope to maintain a good speed. At one point I fell and then picked up and skied out to Dan waiting at the car.

We got out before the rain arrived. (I'm not sure if it did arrive actually.) The turns were great and it was fun to explore a new area to me. I really needed a day in the backcountry after I found lift serve to be lacking.

My pics are here.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lane Peak - Lover's Lane - 01.24.10

Josh, Matt and I had been discussing this route since we climbed The Zipper on Lane Peak in February 2009. The Zipper was really fun, with a great bunch of guys on a bluebird day. However, due to conditions, it seemed to easy. So we wanted to try Lover's Lane which is supposed to be more difficult.

We didn't bring floatation like last year, and our approach suffered. The final slopes up to the gully were a trail breaking nightmare and I was wishing I had my new snowshoes. We finally reached a section below the gully that was firm having been scoured by avalanches. We donned our crampons, and decided to harness up as well. We continued up with one tool each until we got to a short ice step very early in the gully. The step was about 6' high and around 80° with the lower part being rock and snow. It eased off to a mellow (35°?) angle after the step but had solid blue ice and good sticks. The fun ran out, and it was back to snow after having some ice fun.

By the time we had all got above the ice step, the wind was really blowing. It is difficult to say if it was also snowing as the wind was blowing spindrift all around. It even blew a few light sloughs off the right side of the gully. We continued up keeping a close watch on the snow conditions. While it varied, it mostly had a wind crust, but we did not see it exhibiting instability. We marched onward.

About three quarters of the way up the gully there is a sort of chock stone against the left wall. We went around it to the right with mixed moves and some thin ice. Above the rock, it turned back to snow again. Of course, we were now higher in the gully and the wind appeared to be blowing in all directions. In the upper gully there was a definite wind slab forming and so we were moving in the hopes of getting to safer terrain, although the slab did not show any signs of instability while we were there.

We exited Lover's Lane to the right where we saw a tree in the hopes of rapping into The Zipper, the traditional finish to Lover's Lane. We found a tree with slings on it high up and figured we were seeing the route with low snow. We set a rap anchor and Josh headed down. He went down about 20' before being able to assess that not only did our rope not reach (remember low snow) but there were no intermediate anchors. He then struggled to climb back up to the anchor while Matt and I debated the next move. Josh was tempted to try another lower tree to see if it would reach. Matt and I pulled the plug stating that the avy danger was increasing, and we would be rappelling into a gully where we had no first hand knowledge of the snow conditions. (Other than extrapolating what we had found in Lover's Lane.)

We retreated back to a set of trees in the top of Lover's Lane. From there Josh led out on a short (30m) pitch of mixed climbing which involved several veggie belays and hooking rock and root to arrive at another tree. He then brought Matt and I up and Matt headed out in search of a way down. While that was happening, I had to take my gloves off to warm my hands. My hands had stinging pain and were hard to move or grip. I put them in my armpits for a bit and at this point finally put my shell jacket on. It seemed that my fingers did better actually being exposed to the air rather than in my gloves. But after they felt normal again, I put the gloves back on to continue climbing.

After a short pitch of mostly snow and a little mixed step, Matt arrived at group of snags which he brought Josh and I up to. There was a narrow gully to the southeast that looked promising for a descent. (Continuing beyond it up the ridge would have required some serious mixed climbing.) Matt made a short rap down to a tree in the gully. From there, I led the next rap which had a near overhanging section followed by going under a chock stone. I considered an attempt at slinging the chock stone, but opted not to as it appeared the ropes might get me to walking terrain.

After getting below the chock stone, I realized the ropes might be too short and I attempted to set an anchor with pitons on the steep rocky slope. After sinking a knifeblade I realized I didn't like my stance, and couldn't find a second placement to backup the first with. This led me to trying to see if I could stretch the ropes enough to make them reach below the next step.

In my attempt I ended up hanging off the lip with my autoblock jammed into the knots at the rope end. Meanwhile Matt and Josh were freezing and wondering if I was injured. They yelled down, I yelled back. I tried to sink a lost arrow, but it didn't work. I was able to put a bugaboo in a location and then successfully lowered myself the few feet to the snow below off of my cordelette.

Unfortunately for Matt, when he arrived the rope ends were not even. That, added to his shorter height meant he added another piton to the anchor before he could lower off. We proceeded to traverse to some trees as Josh came down and cleaned up our mess. A short traverse on a steep snow slope got us to our last rappel and finally to walking ground.

The walk out went well if you consider wallowing in 6" of new snow going well. We trudged back to the car and made it out before they closed the gate at Longmire.

Overall, this was a great trip. Unlike last year's conditions we were blessed with what a Scot would call "full conditions." This added to the spice and inspired our reluctance to drop into the Zipper to finish with a possible summit. If we felt good about the snow, it would have proved to be faster to drop into The Zipper instead of taking our retreat route. By the end of the day we were all thoroughly drenched from snow being blow into openings in our clothes as well. But the route was enjoyable. Aside from the bit of ice near the bottom (which may get buried under deeper snowpack) the climb did not feel technically harder. It was more interesting because of the ice and the rappel into The Zipper. We managed to spice it up quite a bit with our retreat variation. Next time I go back, it will be under better skies.

My pics are here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Mount Erie - 01.21.10

The weather hadn't been wet for a few days and Adam and I headed to Mount Erie to get on some rock. The forecast for Anacortes was partly sunny with high around 51°. We opted to climb at the summit wall for the easy access and numerous trad routes.

View from the top

We started with me leading a 5.6 route, but I had difficulty with the crux, and after a half dozen attempts I backed off and Adam gave it a go. He got through and continued to the anchors. On top rope I got the sequence correct and had no issues with it at all.

Looking up the 5.6

We walked back down and I gave a 5.4 a go. (I wanted to lead a route.) It didn't have the best pro opportunities, which made me balk at a few moves near the finish. At least this one I completed on lead. I brought Adam up and we set a top rope for an adjacent 5.8.

This 5.8 was enjoyable, but I had to hang where it got really steep due to weakness in my left hand grip. (I've been doing some brick work this week, and handling bricks with my left hand had taken its toll.) After a brief rest, I finished the steep portion of the route. Adam had more difficulty at a section I found fun and easy, but he did not have to hang and executed the transition to the steep section well.

Adam moved the anchor over to "The Corner" a classic 5.7 route at Erie. We top roped this as well. I found the corner to be a little painful on my left foot, but other wise not technically difficult. Adam (perhaps due to smaller feet) didn't have the same foot issue and felt about the same regarding the route.

Stemming into "The Corner"

We then swung the rope over the nose to climb "The Nose Direct" a .10b/c route that heads right up to a roof and over it. I started up first and found that the red wall below the roof was difficult as well. Since I really just wanted to climb the roof I attempted to bypass this red wall by climbing the crux of the 5.6 that we started the day with. Unfortunately after the crux I was already too high to attempt the roof, and I continued on "The Nose" a 5.8 which leads up the feature on the right side. This short section of climbing was enjoyable and had some hidden holds. It also did not feel as difficult as the 5.8 we had climbed earlier.

After that, we headed home. It was nice to get out on real rock and lead some trad. I was really expecting a better performance from myself. It also once again proves that there is little correlation between climbing at the gym and on real rock. Hopefully I'll be able to get on more rock in the coming weeks.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Resort Skiing - 01.17.09

No pictures, as I wasn't planning on writing anything up about this trip. I sprung for a discount lift ticket to Snoqualmie Pass, as I knew the weather was going to be rainy for this weekend, and I was once again lacking partners. Skiing in bounds in a safe way to enjoy the mountains solo on a weekend like this.

This was also a great opportunity to try the skis I got from a friend. (Thanks again Steve!) It was also the first time I had been on a ski other than my own in almost two years. After having only skied intermediate/beginner skis, it was a different experience getting on an advanced ski. (I had brought my randonee skis with me in case these new to me skis didn't work out.)

Steve had told me that the skis needed to be driven to turn, and he wasn't kidding. I decided to start on a green run to see what the skis would do. Or perhaps to minimize the damage if I fell. Initially they seemed to operate in a similar fashion to my Shuksans. After a few turns, I got lazy and didn't drive them through the turn. They were not as forgiving and I had to come to a stop. After that successful run (hey I didn't fall) I decided to get on a blue run.

Conditions were a touch icy, but pretty decent for skiing. On the blue run I found myself turning a little too much as I did not want to get lax and have an incident. After a bunch of laps on blue runs, I got the hang of the skis and started running some blacks. It was a good time except for a fall I took on relatively flat terrain right near a ski patroller. I'm not sure what happened but I went down hard and fast. And I slid for a bit.

The weather held, and I left before any precip started. It was probably warm enough that it would have been rain, but I didn't wait to find out. Always a learning experience being out on skis.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Years Nordic - 01.02.10

About six years ago, Jennifer and I had the perfect New Year's Day snowshoeing in Quebec. A wonderful cold sunny day in knee deep powder. This was the first time we had paid to go snowshoeing as we were at a resort and may have been on some Nordic trails leaving the lodge area. It marked the first time that we decided we wanted to learn to Nordic ski, as it appeared enjoyable. For the past three years January First has been reserved for the Polar Bear Plunge. So this year the second was when we went Nordic skiing.

The original hope for the weekend was a getaway trip to a lodge or hut of some sort. But with higher temps and rain in the forecast, it just didn't seem worth it. And since we didn't really have our trip planned out well in advance, we were scrambling to make something happen. It wasn't worth it and we decided to stay in town and do day trips. Unfortunately, as of this writing that only amounted to one day trip, but that is how it goes.

There was supposed to be snow in the forecast for the passes until around Noon. So we planned our outing to coincide with the stoppage of precip. Unfortunately, the forecast was not perfect and it was raining for forty miles or so before the pass. There was a touch of wintry mix at the pass and the precip turned once again to rain shortly on the other side. Since this was bringing us down we drove past our intended target of Cabin Creek and headed to Lake Easton hoping it would not be raining there. Unfortunately it was raining there too, although perhaps a touch lighter. We decided to head back to Cabin Creek with the idea that if the rain was making things unenjoyable we'd shorten the trip and go home.

We arrived at the parking lot to see Ken's car there. The lot was slush soup and we geared up quickly under a light rain. Once on the trails and moving, the rain was more of an afterthought, and it varied between mist and rain and everything in between most of our lap. We had a good time, although there were lots of families to pass and not ideal passing opportunities on the trails. Near the end of our lap, I heard, then saw Ken and called out to him. He stated he was finishing up teaching a lesson and would meet us at the end of the trail. We agreed to do a lap with he and Liz.

First lap family dodging

As things go, waiting a bit at the trail head made the rain more noticeable and made us a bit cold. We were having second thoughts. But as Ken arrived we decided to go for it and had a nice second lap where blue skies were seen for the first time in a week. The second lap was nicer as we were more accustomed to the loop and neither of us fell the second lap out. While the tracks were not recently groomed the snow conditions were pretty good and we had a good time. After the second lap we parted ways.

Rare January blue sky

I'm a little fed up with the price of a Sno Park Pass ($80) and the lack of grooming going on. Many areas have yet to see their first groom, and this is not always due to snow accumulation. Ken and I discussed sending some nastygrams to the state.